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Monday, November 19, 2012
Wake-up call: Playoff picture shaping up

By Jamison Hensley

PITTSBURGH -- It wasn't a decisive win over the rival Steelers, but the Ravens have to feel good about themselves compared to what some of other top AFC teams endured Sunday. The Texans nearly lost to the Jaguars, and the Patriots lost tight end Rob Gronkowski to a broken forearm.

The Ravens (8-2) remain the No. 2 seed in the AFC and have taken a two-game lead over the Steelers (6-4) in the division race with six weeks remaining. Baltimore could essentially wrap up the division with a win over Pittsburgh at home in two weeks.

The Steelers hold a one-game lead over the Bengals (5-5) for the sixth and final playoff spot. Pittsburgh currently holds the tiebreaker edge over Cincinnati based on the Steelers' win at Paul Brown Stadium last month.

Pittsburgh has a two-game advantage over the five other teams (San Diego, Tennessee, New York Jets, Buffalo and Miami) that have a 4-6 record.

Here's what the local columnists are saying about their teams:

RAVENS: The Baltimore Sun's Mike Preston thinks the Ravens aren't pretty but they find a way to win. "If you're waiting for the Ravens to become a super team in their quest to win a Super Bowl trophy, it's probably not going to happen," Preston wrote. "But if you're looking for a team good enough to be a strong contender, then it's the Ravens. There are no more heavyweights left for the Ravens to play except Denver."

STEELERS: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ron Cook points out how a valiant effort by the Steelers' defense wasn't enough against Baltimore. "The defense gave the team a chance to win by playing its best game of the season," Cook wrote. "It nearly pitched a shutout, basically holding the Ravens to one field goal drive. The Ravens finished with 200 yards of offense and punted on eight of their 11 possessions. Funny, though, none of the defensive players felt all that good about themselves afterward."

BENGALS: The Cincinnati Enquirer's Paul Daugherty believes the Bengals should be commended for taking care of business against the one-win Chiefs. "Give the Bengals credit for taking things seriously," Daugherty wrote. "The fear in games like this is the favored team gets lulled early, and panics late. It almost happened Sunday, when the Texans needed overtime to beat Jacksonville. It never had a chance here."

BROWNS: The Plain Dealer's Terry Pluto says Sunday's overtime loss to the Cowboys is just another for fans locked in the Browns' torture chamber. "Often, it's easier when the Browns just lose something like 56-6. By halftime, you could just go outside and rake the leaves," Pluto wrote. "Or switch the channel and see what the hoarders are hoarding. Instead, fans are piling up the frustration after Sunday's 23-20 loss in overtime to Dallas. How many times did it seem the Browns had this game won? Once? Twice? How about 115 times?"